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Academic Feminism’s Entanglements with University Corporatization

Janice Newson


Late 20th-century academic feminism has been impressively successful. In contrast to their sparse presence in pre-1970s academia, women make up the majority of students and faculty members in most social science and humanities disciplines, and in professions such as law and medicine; women’s recruitment to the natural and physical sciences has become an institutional priority; women occupy many high-level academic-administrative positions; and, feminist intellectual perspectives have undermined and in some cases replaced male-centred knowledge paradigms.

Yet this successful intervention into the academy has taken place at the same time as another process, corporatization, has been reconfiguring the academy in significant ways. That these transformative interventions have been reshaping the academic terrain at the same time seems counterintuitive. A feminist vision for the university hardly seems compatible with the commoditization and commercialization of teaching and research that accompanies corporatization. Their concurrence thus raises important theoretical and political questions. Has the success of the feminist intervention intermingled with and been shaped by corporatization? Have academic women’s advancements actually aided corporatization? This article explores these provocative questions and their implications for the future of academic feminism and for the university as a public-serving institution. It calls on feminist scholars and activists to come forward with a renewed vision for the university, one that could help to bring together and provide focus to the various attempts by students and faculty to wrest universities from the grip of the neoliberal policies that have given them a corporate shape.

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